Green beans are a fantastic asset in the garden. The plants are hearty, easy to maintain, and produce high yields, while the beans contain a wide variety of vitamins and anti-oxidants such as carotenoids, B vitamins, Vitamin C, K, and A. But when you are facing large piles of green beans week after week, how do you vary the flavor and keep them from rotting before you get a chance to enjoy?
One solution I’ve discovered is to pickle them using lacto-fermentation. Lacto-wuh? You may ask… Lacto-fermentation is the process of preserving food through a salt brine which encourages the growth healthy bacteria in the food while bad bacteria are snuffed out in an anaerobic environment (no oxygen below the brine in which the food is submerged). This creates a tasty, tangy food product teaming with excellent probiotic properties that will last in the fridge for months (although these tasty snacks never last more than a few days in my house). Lacto-fermented foods are also super easy to prepare, and much of the nutrition of the food is preserved. Cultures For Health recently wrote an excellent article about the benefits of lacto-fermentation. Check it out if you’d like to learn more about the science behind the process: http://www.culturesforhealth.com/lacto-fermentation-method-food-preservation/
What you’ll need to try your own pickled green beans:
1 mason jar with screw top lid (washed and dried)
4 cups of filtered water
3 TB salt
2 lb green beans
1 handfull of fresh dill (or 2 TB of dried dill)
5-6 garlic cloves, peeled
1 TB red pepper flakes (season to taste, add 1-2 TB more if you like things really spicy)
Mix the water and the salt in a bowl. Set the salt water aside. Put the peppercorns, red pepper flakes, garlic and dill into the bottom of the mason jar. Stuff as many green beans into the jar as possible. If you like long beans you can set them straight up, or you can break them into smaller pieces and lay them on the sides (this may be helpful if your beans are longer than the jar is tall). When you have filled the jar with beans, pour the salt water mixture into the jar, leaving about ½ inch space at the top of the jar. Screw the lid on tight and let the jar sit in an undisturbed area of the kitchen for 3-5 days. Once per day unscrew the lid to allow the pressure from the fermentation gases to escape. Taste occasionally for preference. When the beans have reached the level of spicy/tangy you desire, put them in the fridge. They should last several months (if they don’t get eaten first!)
Have you experimented with fermented foods? Was the experience a success? What is your favorite preserved food?